Lorena Wiebes overhauls Marianne Vos to make history as Tour de France Femmes begins with a bang
Lorena Wiebes was widely tipped to take Stage 1 victory at the Tour de France Femmes and duly delivered with a perfect sprint on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Wiebes, who overhauled Marianne Vos in the sprint to the line, will wear the yellow jersey on Monday. "It’s amazing, the team did an amazing job," said the DSM star. "I’m really happy to finish this off."
Stage 1 highlights: Wiebes beats Vos in Champs-Elysees drag race
Lorena Wiebes (DSM) won a drag race against Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) on the Champs-Elysees to become the first stage winner in Tour de France Femmes history. The victory also means Wiebes will wear the first yellow jersey of the race on Stage 2, when she will be hoping to double up.
The women's edition of the Tour de France, revived by the same organisers after a 33-year absence, began on the same Parisien stage on which the men will complete their three-week journey later on Sunday. The 12-lap race was far from the procession that we have become used to in the men's edition, however, being raced at a red-hot pace, replete with spills and inter-competition battles, in temperatures well into the 30s.
Though the almost completely flat city-centre course rendered a sprint finish almost certain, that did not stop several teams from sending riders up the road. After five neutralised kilometres, the attacks began the moment race director Marion Rousse unfurled the flag to signal the official start. First to find herself riding into clear air was Amandine Fouquenet (Arkea) before being reeled in by EF Education Tibco SVB. On the second lap Nina Buijsman (Human Powered Health) headed out on her own, to enjoy a short solo sweep around the Arc de Triomphe.
Two mid-stage intermediate sprints with a maximum of 25 points each on offer meant no breakaway was going to be allowed a long leash, or much alone time. A decent placing for any rider could be enough to swing the jersey in their favour.
‘Let’s go racing!’ – Historic moment as Tour de France Femmes gets underway
The first intermediate came after 38km of racing and was most strongly contested by the two riders who would go on to compete for the stage victory. Vos allowed her team-mates to lead her through the finish, before opening up an 80% effort towards the line 800m further on. Wiebes was satisfied to settle for second, sticking to Vos’ wheel but never looked like putting her nose in the wind.
Pauline Allin (Arkea) and Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health) spend some time out front between sprints, the second of which was most fiercely fought for by Lotte Kopecky. The SD Worx rider left it late, but her last-ditch launch to the line was successful, as she moved into provisional second place in that competition. Wiebes and Vos were conspicuously absence, evidently saving themselves for the finale.
Three laps left brought the only classified climb of the day. Its sole purpose was only to allow the race to award a polka dot jersey, but injected a welcome bit of excitement into a race that was simmering but had largely settled, as the riders anticipated the bunch sprint.
A well-timed clip off the front from three riders, Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT), Femke Markus (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Anne Dorthe Ysland (Uno-X), meant they had enough of a lead by the point at which it arrived to compete for it among themselves.
Markus was the strongest of the trio, hitting out to take a well-earned pair of points and - more meaningfully - the first maillot a pois of the race.
12.5km remaining brought the biggest and most damaging crash of the race. A concertinaing on the cobbles took down Christine Majerus (SD Worx) and Alana Castrique (Cofidis), the Frenchwoman hitting hardest and being forced to abandon.
‘It’s amazing, the team did an amazing job’ – Wiebes
The final 10 kilometres gave us the most successful sortie of the day, by Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo). At one point the lone Frenchwoman had a lead of close to a minute, and there must have been a few in the bunch who wondered if they had made a mistake.
They hadn’t. Although Verhulst was able to hold out for an impressive 7km solo, once the peloton decided her time was up, her time was up.
Movistar were the first team to come to the front, protecting their GC leader Annemiek van Vleuten, but also in aid of Emma Norsgaard, but it was Jumbo Visma who had the strongest lead-out train.
At the flamme rouge, Anna Henderon was in an aggressive tuck and giving it everything on the front to put Vos in the perfect position.
In the end she could not hope to do enough.
On the wide, bumpy boulevard of the Champs Elysees, Vos launched first and to the right, but Wiebes - put in a very good but not perfect position by her own team-mates - had more than enough space to weave left round the riders in front of her.
She caught and overwhelmed Vos before the line, taking the stage, and the maillot jaune, by more than a bike length.
'Someone’s not a happy bunny!' – Wiebes holds crying baby on podium
In her post-race interview, Wiebes said she had been "quite relaxed before the start," but admitted to being "nervous towards the final." In the end, she said, "I’m really happy to finish this off."
For her part, Vos had no complaints about the result, admitting that she could not compete with Wiebes' superior speed.
"My team did a perfect job from two laps out," she said at the finish. "They were already in front to keep me safe, to keep me out of trouble. Everything was perfect. When Lorena launched her sprint I couldn’t meet her speed. I think we did everything right.
“When you can’t blame yourself for doing anything wrong," Vos said, in response to a question asking if she was happy with second, "I think you just have to say Lorena was perfect today and I think she deserved to win.”
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Stream the Tour de France Femmes live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.